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State Moved Watertown Into Lower Category Due to Lack of Test Takers on 1 MCAS Exam

School officials are appealing the decision by state education officials, but for now the town is in the third level Accountability Data.

When the state released the results of the 2012 MCAS exams, Watertown school officials were surprised to see the district's classified in Level 3, or "needs technical assistance," in the state's accountability report.

As the looked closer, they noticed that only one school, Watertown High School, fell into Level 3 - out of five levels. That rating was due to a lack of test takers in one group of students, Barbara Gortych, the district's Assessment and Testing Coordinator told the School Committee this week.

All the other schools in the district fell into Level 2.

"The district rating is based on the level of the lowest school," Gortych said. "The high school is Level 3 because in one particular subgroup, on the one particular test, we were below the 90 percent (participation) mark."

Watertown officials spoke to members of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), who said that DESE Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester wants to "shine a light on participation, particularly on the science test," Gortych said.

Overall, Watertown High School was well above the 90 percent participation mark on all three subjects of the MCAS, said WHS Head Master Steve Watson. In English Language Arts and math 99 percent of students took the test, and 97 percent of the students took the science and technology test.

The high school is appealing the decision because some of the students had legitimate reasons not to take the test, Watson said. 

If the Level 3 stands, the district will have to do a self-assessment about why how they had the under 90 percent participation rate. The state will also provide assistance, he said. 

"We are quickly doing that already, because we care about the issue," Watson said.

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